THE graves of former President Robert Mugabe's late wife Sally and his sister Sabina, which used to be the centre of attraction during annual National Heroes' Day commemorations presided over by the now ousted leader, were this year abandoned after no single relative appeared to have turned up to visit them.
It had become tradition during heroes' day that Mugabe and family would take time to visit, lay large bouquets of flowers and spend a few moments by the graves while aides cheered the occasion.
This time there were neither roses nor lilies for the two late heroines.
The 2018 heroes' day commemorations were the first such event to be presided over by a different state leader following Mugabe's ouster November last year.
Since his ignominious exit from a job he had held for nearly four decades, Mugabe has not hidden his detest for the country's new rulers who he has described as his tormentors.
It is the norm that soon after the official speech and other rituals by the national leader, families and relatives of heroes who lie buried at the national shrine visit the graves to lay wreaths on their dear departed's final resting places.
But those who thronged the national shrine for commemorations passed by the two graves casting weird gazes while a few bothered to stop and pose for a few photos.
The two graves, which are separated by two empty graves and one belonging to the late former General Solomon Mujuru lied in a sombre state with only a single bunch of flowers, presumably dropped by event organisers observed.
The two empty graves are reportedly reserved for the former President and Mujuru's wife, former Vice President Joice.
It was not clear if the families had chosen another day to remember their loved ones.
Families of the late heroes and heroines buried at the acre went about their business, sitting around the graves of their loved ones, some singing, some praying and some taking turns to pose for photos.
But there was no mistaking the weird spectacle that ensued by the grave of the former President's late wife.
While everyone was quick to notice the desolate picture around Sally and Sabina's graves, a professional photographer saw opportunity, touting for photos among those interested in being photographed while at Sally's grave.
A mini stampede ensured as dozens paid for images near the graves of the liberation legends.
Some trampled on fresh flowers that were planted by the state.
Upon realising there were journalists around, a visibly concerned man had things to say about the two late heroines.
"We will not comment about their families. What is important is that we are here, and we managed to visit the grave of Sally as one of our freedom fighters not as a relative.
"I have no relative buried here but I'm here to honour all heroes lying here," he said.
Mujuru's daughter was seen visiting her father's grave but however refused to speak to the media.
She was in the company of some women who were dressed in Zanu PF party regalia.
They left fresh flowers and cleaned the tombstone and one of them took time lying on top of the grave while claiming she was a close friend.
General Mujuru was killed in an inferno that broke out at his Beatrice farm house in 2011.
Sally passed on in 1992 after a kidney failure whilst her sister-in-law Sabina succumbed to arthritis in 2010.
Mugabe's late wife from Ghana was the first woman to be buried at the national shrine and could still have received better attention by that status alone if it were for the dramatic change of fortunes by her surviving spouse.
Officiating at the event, President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa only inspected the tomb of unknown soldier before he laid wreaths and left the venue.